Staying competitive in the crowded healthcare market
The healthcare industry is one of the largest and fastest-growing in the world, with global healthcare spending expected to reach more than $10 trillion by 2022. As such, healthcare marketing is both a lucrative and crowded market. The result? Prospective patients have more choices than ever before.
Gone are the days when location and proximity were the most important factors in choosing between healthcare providers. Patients are now undertaking more thorough research, making decisions based on a range of metrics: rankings, pricing, expertise, reputation. As an industry characterised by rapid change and innovation, those responsible for marketing healthcare services require agility and focus to develop integrated plans capable of attracting and retaining patients.
Case studies and data indicate that consumers are searching online for the answers:
- 66% of internet users look online for information about a specific disease or medical problem.
- Approximately 7% of all Google searches are health-related.
- There are 70,000 health-related searches per minute, every day.
- Google advise that search drives 3x more visitors to hospital sites compared to non-search.
As a result, marketing teams must take an omnichannel, segmented, personalised approach to medical service promotion – and one that prioritises digital marketing.
Even for healthcare companies satisfied with current patient numbers, marketers need to be adaptable and forward-thinking. Any number of adverse factors – including insurance limitations, relocation and unsatisfactory experiences – can negatively impact patient volume.
Medical marketing is a process of strategic outreach and communications comprising multiple stakeholders: healthcare services, networks and providers; healthcare professionals, practitioners and caregivers; and marketing executives and agencies. It aims to engage new patients, keep them engaged throughout their journey, and build trust to retain them in the system.
Healthcare organisations have plenty to gain from marketing efforts, for example:
- Demonstrating expertise and building trust and loyalty
- Increasing brand awareness through thought leadership
- Managing reputation
- Developing a robust patient acquisition and engagement process
- Generating leads, revenue and competitive advantage
- Providing the right information at the right time to the right patient
- Evaluating productivity and informing longer-term strategies
Many hospitals, medical clinics, pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers enlist the help of specialist healthcare marketing agencies to achieve their business goals.
Credible healthcare content
Underpinning successful medical content marketing is the need for high-quality, credible content.
Choices about healthcare treatment and options can be personal and sensitive; patients want and need to know that they are receiving the best information, from reputable companies whose expertise and experience makes them the right choice. Producing quality content is a valuable, and often more cost-effective, method of generating interest and driving marketing goals.
Choosing the correct formats to disseminate content – such as blog posts, advertisements, social media, infographics and videos – will require thought. As there is no single way that prospective patients receive healthcare content, segmentation is necessary to target different audiences with the content they will find most engaging in places they are most likely to encounter it.
Developing a coherent healthcare marketing strategy
For healthcare businesses, understanding how to ensure their brands remain at the forefront of public consciousness is critical.
Healthcare marketing initiatives are wide-ranging:
- Use consistent healthcare branding – prioritise building and promoting a strong, recognisable and trusted brand. This exercise may involve identifying unique selling points of the brand, promoting awards and achievements, and considering what sort of image and ethos to portray.
- Build a responsive healthcare website – responsive sites are critical if consumers are going to be able to access healthcare information via smartphones, tablets, computers and other devices. As well as improving user experience, mobile-first functionality helps websites to rank better in search engines.
- Optimise for prospective patients’ search results – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) helps websites to perform well in search engine results. If there is no in-house expertise, it may be worthwhile to work with a digital marketing agency to deliver an optimised website that performs well in terms of relevant, healthcare-related search terms, engaging content, accessibility, readability and more.
- Utilise PPC (pay-per-click) and display ads for healthcare marketing – PPC, also known as paid search, enables web pages to appear first for highly focused search terms. Using PPC and display ads – promotions found on the sidebar and at the top of other sites – can offer a high return on investment (ROI) and boost site visibility.
- Leverage social media – while organic social media marketing – posting event information, photos, updates and promotions on various platforms – is a useful strategy, it is by no means the only method. Paid social media advertising is a great way to reach a larger audience, targeting consumers who are not already engaged with healthcare services.
- Ask for patient reviews – testimonials are a powerful marketing tool. Consumers want reassurance that others in similar situations have had positive experiences. A patient who has been independently motivated to leave a review has, generally, either had an above-average or poor experience with a provider. As a result, many other experiences – which may be very positive – go under the radar. Automated reviews can be an effective way to collect this data, for example via tablets in clinics or as part of follow-up emails.
- Engage with patient feedback – healthcare marketing campaigns should include public relations-focused reputation and brand management activities. Researching healthcare systems and services will likely lead prospective patients to review sites and message boards. Failing to address negative feedback is one of the quickest ways for others to garner a less-than-favourable impression of a business, while responding constructively to patient feedback demonstrates a commitment to patient experience and service improvement.
- Investigate traditional media options – outside of digital marketing strategy, traditional outlets still deliver strong results: flyers; newspapers and magazines; billboards; and radio and television. While a major investment, specialist media buyers can help to ascertain where money would be best spent to achieve maximum impact and ROI.
- Track the marketing strategy – examining marketing plan performance data helps to evaluate both how successful marketing efforts are and how future budget should be allocated. Examples include Google Analytics, Google AdWords, HIPAA (Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act)-compliant call-tracking technologies and CRM systems.
Additionally, marketing efforts and activities which focus on establishing a brand as an authority in a specific field of medicine, evaluating online patient experiences and building doctor referrals into marketing plans are useful in developing a more-comprehensive strategy.
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